The second season of Oly on Ice was filled with laughter, friendship and memories. Our community’s pop-up ice rink was an avalanche of success and showed what wintery magic can be achieved when public and private entities come together for a very cool reason: community.

Oly on Ice will return for a third season next year. Ice skating makes a winter dreary bright and cheery! Photo courtesy: Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation

“Our community partnerships grew from 50 last year to more than 70 this year,” says Olympia Parks, Arts, & Recreation Director Paul Simmons. Sponsorships help offset the amount of public funding needed to support the rink and help make it accessible to every member of our community. “Cash sponsors allowed us to increase the number of low-income passes distributed from 120 last year to 550 this year,” Simmons says. “Programming partners provided value-added entertainment opportunities for all visitors and media partners brought visitors to the rink from throughout Western Washington.”

Over the past two seasons, 40,699 skaters took to the ice. “This new winter tradition has

clearly charmed our local community,” says Anna Uyeda, the department’s marketing program specialist, “and has also bolstered local tourism. It’s really great,” she continues, “to be able to provide a winter activity that draws people to our city from other areas. Families were not only enjoying what the rink had to offer, but then they were out shopping and eating and having fun downtown.”

“Eighty percent of skaters came from within 20 miles of Olympia,” Uyeda reports “and 20 percent came from the greater Western Washington region. Thousands more non-skaters also came through to watch their grandkids skate, chaperone school field trips, or to experience the winter magic at the rink.”

(Clockwise) Wyatt, Sheppard, and Rowan got a good skate in over Winter Break. When school’s out, the skaters were in session. Photo credit: Jerica Pender

The busiest day last season hosted an amazing 1,006 skaters in one day. Whether they hugged the wall taking jaunty “steps” along the ice, or twirled and looped, skating their way through the crowd with ease, Oly on Ice was the place that our community, near and far, came together.

Joanne Nichols, and her son Wyatt, who is 7-years-old, experienced the winter magic. Joanne watched as her son skated to his heart’s content. A little trepidatious at first, Wyatt proceeded with caution. “Your first fall hurts!” he says, “and it’s scary,” but the irresistible lure of skating soon had him hooked like a wintery fish jigged through an ice hole.

“He will NOT stop talking about how he loves to ice skate” she says, “and it’s been two months since we’ve gone! He now asks once-a-week when we can go to Skateland so he can get some practice in for next year.”

Joellen Wilhelm took her teen as well. “We went at least a dozen times,” she says. This past season, the community made clear that they loved the larger rink size, and that the new skates made skating more comfortable and safer for all ages and abilities. The tent was expanded, hard-sided walls and windows were added, and improved decor made for a (slightly) warmer and certainly more magical experience.

Community groups added to the ambience by providing pop-up food options like artisan waffles and gourmet hot cocoa. The Hands On Children’s Museum provided off-ice fun between skate sessions and Studio West’s Nutcracker cast posed for photos. Harlequin Productions hosted a Fairy Tale Night with costumed characters and face-painting, and Pizza Klatch, Capital City Pride, The Bridge Music Project, and Olympia Downtown Alliance also hosted themed events.

High-fiving your partner is an important component of ice skating. Photo credit: Jerica Pender

There were Cheap Skate nights on Tuesdays with reduced admission, Sensory-Friendly skates on Sunday mornings, a Family Skate Day hosted by Fit4Mom, Family Support Center and Amazon of Olympia, and Saint Martin’s University, South Puget Sound Community College, and The Evergreen State College all hosted college nights at the rink. The community came together, solidifying support for one another and strengthening a new winter tradition.

“There are many opportunities for the community to gather in the summer,” says Ann Flannigan vice president of public relations for WSECU, “from festivals, to Music in the Park concerts or other events. It’s wonderful that Olympia now has a winter signature gathering place downtown that gets neighbors out of their homes to come together for some fun!”

WSECU was one of this season’s top sponsors, along with Olympia Orthopaedic Associates and Small to Tall Pediatric Dentistry. Propel Construction was the Presenting Sponsor. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of these community partners, who are committed to bringing family-friendly recreation and fun to Olympia,” says Uyeda.

Oly on Ice will return next year for its third season. The dates and details aren’t finalized yet, as the small (but mighty) staff who puts this on are still reveling (and recovering) in their post-season glow. One thing is for certain though, the thought of the rink’s return makes the turn in the weather next fall something to look forward to.

And if you take Wyatt’s advice, you’d better spend your summer practicing skating in any way you can… Pump Track, anyone?

If your business or organization would like to sponsor or get involved with next season’s Oly on Ice, reach out to Anna Uyeda at auyeda@ci.olympia.wa.us for more information.

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